INVESTING THE GIFTS OF FAITH
Borrowing images from Ezekiel 1 and 10, the author of Revelation gives us an inaugural vision in which he describes a liturgy of heaven, showing the power of God, who will win the fight between good and evil.
Faith, the gospel, the life of Christ are rich gifts which we have received to work with, to produce with, to do business with, as the gospel says. We cannot just take our faith for granted. We are stewards of the goods of the kingdom; a good steward does not only keep what the master gives him or her, but invests it to produce more. One who has will be given more. This is Luke’s presentation of the parable of the talents. How productive is our faith?
Good and loving Father, you have made us rich in many ways, our faith, the good news of the gospel, your Son Jesus Christ above all, with his life and his Spirit, and the people around us. Help us grow in this faith and this love, teach us to invest ourselves in your kingdom of goodness and hope, that we may be worthy of your trust, by the power of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
1 Reading: Revelation 4:1-11
I, John, had a vision of an open door to heaven, and I heard the trumpet like voice that had spoken to me before, saying, “Come up here and I will show you what must happen afterwards.” At once I was caught up in spirit. A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian. Around the throne was a halo as brilliant as an emerald. Surrounding the throne I saw twenty-four other thrones on which twenty-four elders sat, dressed in white garments and with gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne, which are the seven spirits of God. In front of the throne was something that resembled a sea of glass like crystal. In the center and around the throne, there were four living creatures covered with eyes in front and in back. The first creature resembled a lion, the second was like a calf, the third had a face like that of a man, and the fourth looked like an eagle in flight. The four living creatures, each of them with six wings, were covered with eyes inside and out. Day and night they do not stop exclaiming: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” Whenever the living creatures give glory and honour and thanks to the one who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before the one who sits on the throne and worship him, who lives forever and ever. They throw down their crowns before the throne, exclaiming: “Worthy are you, Lord our God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things; because of your will they came to be and were created.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 150:1B-2, 3-4, 5-6
R.(1b)Holy, holy, holy Lord, mighty God!
Praise the LORD in his sanctuary, praise him in the firmament of his strength. Praise him for his mighty deeds, praise him for his sovereign majesty. R.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet, praise him with lyre and harp, Praise him with tumbrel and dance, praise him with strings and pipe. R.
Praise him with sounding cymbals, praise him with clanging cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Alleluia. R.
Alleluia, alleluia. I chose you from the world, to go and bear fruit that will last, says the Lord. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Luke 19:11-28
While people were listening to Jesus speak, he proceeded to tell a parable because he was near Jerusalem and they thought that the Kingdom of God would appear there immediately. So he said, “A nobleman went off to a distant country to obtain the kingship for himself and then to return. He called ten of his servants and gave them ten gold coins and told them, ‘Engage in trade with these until I return.’ His fellow citizens, however, despised him and sent a delegation after him to announce, ‘We do not want this man to be our king.’ But when he returned after obtaining the kingship, he had the servants called, to whom he had given the money, to learn what they had gained by trading. The first came forward and said, ‘Sir, your gold coin has earned ten additional ones.’ He replied, ‘Well done, good servant! You have been faithful in this very small matter; take charge of ten cities.’ Then the second came and reported, ‘Your gold coin, sir, has earned five more.’ And to this servant too he said, ‘You, take charge of five cities.’ Then the other servant came and said, ‘Sir, here is your gold coin; I kept it stored away in a handkerchief, for I was afraid of you, because you are a demanding man; you take up what you did not lay down and you harvest what you did not plant.’ He said to him, ‘With your own words I shall condemn you, you wicked servant. You knew I was a demanding man, taking up what I did not lay down and harvesting what I did not plant; why did you not put my money in a bank? Then on my return I would have collected it with interest.’ And to those standing by he said, ‘Take the gold coin from him and give it to the servant who has ten.’ But they said to him, ‘Sir, he has ten gold coins.’ He replied, ‘I tell you, to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. Now as for those enemies of mine who did not want me as their king, bring them here and slay them before me.'” After he had said this, he proceeded on his journey up to Jerusalem.
At this point in Revelation, the heavenly court becomes visible to the Seer. The throne becomes visible but there is no description of the one seated upon it. The occupant is God himself, who as Spirit, is not seen or described. What is visible is his crown, the symbol of royal authority. On twenty-four surrounding thrones are seated the twenty-four elders, representing the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles (thus embracing both covenants). Their crowns represent their heavenly royalty and the white garments, their fidelity. The seven torches represent the seven spirits of God, an extension of God himself who serve as his messengers.
The four living creatures draw on the imagery of Ezekiel 1. The images connected with each (lion, ox, eagle, and man) represent God’s supremacy over all creation. The creatures are covered with eyes, front and back, representing God’s oversight over all creation. A Jewish Midrash on the four creatures tells us that “man is exalted among creatures; the eagle among birds, the ox among domestic animal, the lion among wild beasts; all of them have received dominion. Unceasingly they sing the praises of the Lord almighty, as do the twenty-four elders.
The heavenly court is taken up completely with the praise of God; whereas the earthly dimension of God’s reign is concerned with the building up of the kingdom. This is the point of today’s Gospel. God’s work in this world is largely that of human agents. There is a distinctive role that each of us has to play. We cannot take our coin, wrap it up, and save it for a rainy day. We must put into action the faith we received graciously from God.
– That all people may share in the earth’s resources in justice, friendship and peace, we pray:
– That all of us here may hold ourselves responsible under God for our own lives and each other’s happiness, we pray:
– That we may not be misers with the talents God has given us, but give God and one another the best of ourselves, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
God our Father, you have given us much and we have little to return to you. But accept us in these humble gifts and reassure us that you can do much with people aware of their poverty. Keep us faithful in all things, whether small or important, that we may render faithful service to you and to people. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Prayer after Communion
God, loving Father, we thank you for the living word and the body of Jesus your Son. We are but timid and hesitant, afraid of committing ourselves because you ask for ourselves. Give us the courage to live the gospel consistently and radically, that however poor we are we may be rich in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
When the Lord asks us what we have done with the rich gifts he has given us, what will we answer? Shall it be simply but inadequately, that we have done no evil, or can we say that we have invested in people, in truth and justice and love, as the Lord asks of us. May God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!